Life Lessons

Oboe Life: Take 23 – Sleep Paralysis

Have you ever had that experience where you wake up and see something in the room, something frightening, but you can’t move a single bone or muscle in your body? Not even screaming?

If you never experience any of that, or come close to something like that, then you probably never experienced Sleep Paralysis. Sleep Paralysis is the phenomenon where one cannot react, move, or even speak during a transition of either waking up or falling asleep, and it is sometimes paired with a frightening image/hallucination. I’ve only learned of this last Friday before I attended an orchestra concert, but the experience has been on going for years during high school and briefly since I started college.

I could not believe that this was a real phenomenon to begin with, but I sobbed in my car as I was reading a research article on this because it brought back terrible flashbacks of what I was experiencing throughout these episodes of Sleep Paralysis. One of my earliest experience with  this would be towards the end of my Freshmen year of high school in 2013; I had woken up at around 3am, and my vision was a bit hazy, but there was a silhouette of something floating above the bed where I slept. It was a little farther above me towards the ceiling, but as time went on it kept lowering down towards my body. At first I was voluntarily keeping my body still to seem as though I’m invisible from this creature, but as I began to see it’s face I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs and run. However, as you can probably guess, I couldn’t move, scream, or even blink away from this terrible demon. It’s hard to remember, but the demon looked like a gargoyle with bleeding fangs. The feeling was horrid and terrifying. My heart kept racing, and I remember struggling to move or even scream for help. My mind was running wildly with thoughts of panic, but I just couldn’t physically do anything. By the time the demon was at my face, I could feel tears falling down my face and knowing that I was probably going to die. Then I blacked out and woke up with the ability to move and see the room clearly now. There was no demon, nothing in the room besides myself. I remember sitting up and still feeling that my heart was beating so hard and heavy, and that my face was wet from tears. I didn’t know how to feel or what to do, so I dismissed it and went back to bed.

After that first experience, I had numerous instances where the feeling of not moving and seeing things in the room occurred frequently, about twice a month give or take. The worst experience of all and the one I can remember clearly occurred sometime during my Senior year, the night before my Eastman audition. Of course, it started with me transitioning between sleep and waking up. I was laying down, and I opened my eyes to see a distorted figure by the door. The door was open and the hallway light was on, which is usually how it is, but I can see that this figure was a tall man wearing nothing but black with a hood covering their face. I was confused, and tried to get up, but of course I couldn’t, so I started to panic. The man was inching its way completely into the room and then another man, dressed in the same way, was also coming in. I wanted to thrash my body up and away or sink beneath the covers so I wouldn’t have to see them, but all I could was stay still. I was now sobbing at this point, but no sound of my screams or cries came out. I willed so hard for my body to move, but nothing. Both men were completely in the roomstanding in front of the bed. One of them had this menacing look as if telling I wasn’t going to survive after what they would do to me. The other one gave me a blank look, as if in a demented sort of way, and he brought his finger up to his lips to signify a “shh”. In reality, it was probably only 30 mins, but time for me stood still as my body stood still. I fought with my body to move because I didn’t want to find out what they would do to me. I wanted to scream for help, but I was already screaming in my mind. I thought this was real and that I’d end up in a crime scene where my body was found disfigured like in some gruesome episode of Law and Order: SVU. Fearful for my life, I came to accept what would happen to me and that I prayed to God to let me be remembered in a peaceful way and to let me rest. I was able to cry so much that the tears was able to distort my vision of what might occur that I blacked out again, but this time, I woke immediately. I sat up, and frantically looked around the room. I jumped off the bed to turn on the lamp and search the room of those men. I looked everywhere around the house, but no one was there. I turned off most of the lights in the house and left the one in the hallway on and the room. I couldn’t go back to sleep and it was 3am…I cried for an hour and a half.

My experiences with Sleep Paralysis wasn’t something I shared with people, not even those closest to me. I didn’t even know what it even was, so inside I thought I was going crazy and mentally insane, but I never let it show or bother me because there were other things in real life that were more important. I was afraid to even think about it because those were some gruesome and horrifying nightmares I didn’t want to think about.

When I found out about what this actual phenomenon is recently, I first told my cousin, then Yoshi. When I told Yoshi this over the phone, my body was shaking and I had tears falling. The pain and fear started to rush back to me and I just couldn’t hold it in. Thankfully I didn’t ruin my makeup. After the concert, I went and researched the heck out of this thing. Only 8% of people ever get to experience this once in their life. It was also proven that the causes of this would be from genetics or sleep deprivation. In high school, I would agree sleep deprivation would be the cause, but it doesn’t explain why it would so often beforehand and occur after high school when I was getting full 9 hours of sleep and not stressing. Perhaps genetics. I haven’t spoken to any of my family members if they’ve ever experienced this, so I’m not sure. Thankfully, it’s been months since I’ve actually experienced Sleep Paralysis. I definetly sleep peacefully now at night, but can’t help to wonder when would I experience this again…


One thought on “Oboe Life: Take 23 – Sleep Paralysis

  1. I’ve had this a few times – thankfully not accompanied by hallucinations, but just waking up and not being able to move. (I’ve also had the thing where you’re about to fall asleep and feel like you’re falling or there’s a loud bang.) It happened quite a few times around audition season, wouldn’t be surprised if it was also related to stress.


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